October 2010

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India Is On Her Way Up! The Rich and Powerful in a Land of a Billion People

by Keith Carey

How India’s Economy Got To Where It is Today
Economically, India suffered through hundreds of years of colonial rule, first by two Muslim empires, then by the British. The British nearly destroyed India’s large home-based handicrafts industries by forcing them to compete with English-made handicrafts. It was not a fair competition; England had experienced an industrial revolution, and they could produce handicrafts much quicker and cheaper than the Indians. Someone who runs a home-based cottage industry cannot produce handicrafts efficiently. Indian nationalists, led by Mahatma Gandhi, organized a boycott of British-made goods coupled with a determined revival of India’s cottage industries. This strategy helped India get needed changes during the latter days of British colonialism.

After India’s independence in 1947, the new government continued the policy of protecting their cottage industries through subsidies. Most of India’s economy was publically owned and protected from competition. Government price controls, high taxes and lack of competition made for a stagnant economy. There were no incentives to improve the quality or cost of products. Those who controlled the government made sure their friends and family members were given economic privileges. For the first couple of decades as a nation, India’s rate of growth was jokingly called the “Hindu rate of growth” meaning that it was much lower than the high growth rates experienced in other parts of Asia.

This dismal situation changed starting in the early 1990s. By that time India was asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $1.8 billion bailout. They were granted this money with the condition that they make significant reforms. In 1991, India’s then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, along with the finance minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, (who is currently India’s prime minster) began some major liberalization policies for the economy. They did away with many of India’s public monopolies and began to allow foreign investments into some sectors. Since that time India has had one of the world’s fastest growing economies in the developing world. This good economic news has been accompanied by an increased life expectancy, a higher literacy rate and better food security, according to a Wikipedia article entitled, “Economy of India.”

India’s Era of Wealth
Wealth often comes from controlling and distributing desired resources. There are a number of desired resources in India that are in demand.

Though India is rapidly moving away from a rural into an urban economy, many of those who own and control agricultural goods are getting wealthy very quickly. This is not to say that everyone in the agricultural field is making good money. Over 60 percent of Indian nationals are working in agriculture, and most of them are poor. Those who own land are able to make lots of money if their land is productive or in demand. A March 18, 2010 article in the New York Times entitled, “For India’s Newly Rich Farmers, Limos Won’t Do,” describes how those who own farm land near Delhi have been able to sell it for high prices to urban developers. With the money from their land sales, many of these family heads are squandering their money on over the top luxuries like hiring helicopters to transport their sons to their weddings. Most of these wealthy farmers are probably from the Jat community.

The Jats (see day 14) have been successful in India’s military as well as in farming. They were instrumental in helping India eradicate much of her starvation problems in the 1960s and 1970s. During that time period much higher yields came to India through advanced “Green Revolution” agricultural technology. It was the Jats and other landowners who worked with scientists to multiply India’s grain harvests, especially in the Punjab, a fertile northern state shared by Hindus and Sikhs. For several years, there was a violent effort on the part of Sikhs to secede from India that lasted well into the 1980s. Now that the Punjab has become one of India’s wealthiest states, the rebellion is over. Instead, Jat farmers are leading India into a time of higher yields in grains, fruits and other goods.

Gold Is Always in Demand
Throughout human history, gold has been a measure of wealth. In 2009, India purchased 200 tons of gold for $6.7 billion dollars from the International Monetary fund (IMF). In India, gold holds the added significance of playing a key role in wedding-related gifts. One of the key elements of arranging for a marriage in India involves gifts between the two families, especially gold jewelry. Listen to an Indian radio station for an hour and you will hear many advertisements for gold jewelry, one of the prized wedding gifts. The Sonars are a people group in India that is heavily involved with the buying and selling of gold. We will pray for them on day 16.

Gold may often back up currency, but the banking system controls who gets capital to start and expand businesses. Thus banking and money-lending people groups like the Banias (see day 15) are key players in India’s economy. They are the ones who decide who is worth the risk and who isn’t. Being the economic gatekeepers gives the Banias a great deal of power. It is interesting to note that 75 percent of India’s banking system is still in public hands despite their economic reforms. Though India is opening banks even in rural areas, most people keep their wealth in traditional assets like land, houses, cattle, or gold.

Techies Rule the Future
In today’s world, technical training usually guarantees a good job and a pleasant standard of living. Those who produce the software are in demand all over the world. With that demand comes high paychecks. Indian migrants to Western countries like England and the United States made $27 billion in 2006, much of which was sent back to India. This additional money is very useful for a developing country.

Let’s go back six decades to see how this got started. One of the best decisions modern India’s founding fathers made at the time of their independence in 1947 was to establish 15 institutes to train scientists and engineers. People from privileged communities, especially the Brahmins and Lingayats, sent their sons to these institutes where they received a fine education. India succeeded in producing scientists and engineers. However, the newly independent government made the bad decision of enforcing socialist-based economic policies that weakened their economy. Young engineers were “all dressed up with no place to go” so to speak. Many had to settle for menial clerical jobs, or worse yet, jobs in the service sector.

American President Lyndon Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which opened the door for well-trained immigrants from outside of Europe to work in the United States. Highly-trained Indian techies found an outlet for their skills. Other countries, most notably the United Kingdom, also allowed many of them to work in their country. Recently, India’s emerging high tech industry has produced jobs so some of these techies can be employed in their home country.

Let’s Pray!
This month, we will be praying for unreached people groups throughout India who are involved with business. Many of these groups hold power and wealth, but do not have a relationship with God. As it stands, most of India’s people groups who have accepted the gospel are from people groups without power or wealth.

Pray that those from the wealthy, powerful communities like the Brahmins, the Lingayats, Sindhis, Banias, and Jats will accept Jesus’ ways in their lives. Pray that as the gospel penetrates these groups that it will open doors for India’s thousands of people groups.


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From the Editor

by Keith Carey

Dear Praying Friends,
Two things happened that caught my attention as I edited this issue. I was looking through our back issues and found that over the years we have done several variations of this theme: the upper classes, castes and leaders in India. Later that day I received an email from Liz Adleta, a leader of our partner organization, Ethne to Ethne. She pointed out that it would take many years to pray for all 10,000 unreached people groups, since we are praying for only one each day.
Perhaps her comment highlights why we need to pray diligently for these people groups more often than others. They are India’s movers and shakers, the ones who control the wealth and resources of a nation inhabited by over a billion people. Simply put, if there is a gospel breakthrough in their communities, it could potentially open the door for Indians from less respected groups to embrace Christ as well.
Matt. 19:24 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” So please join in prayer this month for the wealthier, educated people groups in India, for it is difficult, nearly impossible for them to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But remember that with God, all things are possible!
For Christ’s Kingdom,
Keith Carey
Managing editor, GPD